By: Susan McDonald, Care New England Marketing

On what will be her 18th birthday, I will drop my youngest daughter off at college. It sounded like a wonderful plan months ago, especially since she is attending my alma mater. However, as the minutes of our last summer as a family of four under one roof tick away, I find myself in a panic.

I try to remind myself that parents do this all the time. Every August, thousands of us drop our freshman off for their new experience, and we both – teenager and parent – start a new phase. Because I’m a list-maker and a planner, I researched ways I can ease my pain (this part is, after all, all about me).

  1. Make it quick. I rented a hotel room for my husband and I to stay two nights until a friend suggested I “rip the bandage off.” We will now head up early, move her in, spend one night, take her for birthday brunch and say goodbye. Parents must be off campus by noon. I think the school knows a little about ripping the bandage off, too.
  2. Deal with it. My husband dreads the 6 hour ride home because he knows I will cry…alot. Leaving your child is difficult. There is grief involved. I will let myself feel sad and then I will move on. Ignoring it won’t make it easier. And I’m hoping it won’t last forever.
  3. Give her space. I won’t see her morning and night. I won’t have conversations, as one-sided as they may be at times, about schoolwork, friends and such. While I may not be able to wait for her to call me, I will fight the urge to check in daily. Hovering isn’t healthy for either of us.
  4. Be flexible. My daughter doesn’t love talking on the phone so I may need to settle for text messages here and there. As long as she’s keeping in touch, I can’t really complain, although I do hope she rethinks her ban on Skype. Something about seeing her face will help me.
  5. Listen. This change is really about her, so I will rework my reporter-esque conversation style so she can talk without my questions. I may actually find out more that way, and she’ll know I’ll always be here.
  6. Refocus. There is life beyond parenthood and while I’ll probably feel the polar tug of the soccer field since I’ve spent the last 14 autumns parked at a field, I will have time to do something else that’s more about me.
  7. Reinvent. Think about your other roles – friend, partner, child. Rejuvenate those relationships.
  8. Inspire. My daughter and I had the luxury of a trip together after her graduation and we had wonderfully deep conversations. I want her to think of those talks about life, careers, relationships and romance, so I’m going to write her a letter about it. Pen on paper, in my own handwriting. Hopefully, she can read it whenever she needs a boost.
  9. Heal. The first time I got sick at school, I realized how far away I was. I filled a small plastic container with medicine for my daughter. Inside the lid, I taped basic instructions: “If you have a stuffy nose and headache, take X.” I can’t give the medicine to her, but I can make sure she has it. That should make us both feel better.

 

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For information about anxiety, depression and other mental health services visit Butler Hospital.